The land ministry Tuesday compiled its budget request for fiscal 2005, featuring a 16 percent increase in overall outlays and an expansion in tax revenue allocated to local governments to boost their autonomy, government sources said.

The budget plan by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry totals 7.87 trillion yen, of which 7.21 trillion yen is earmarked for public works projects, up 17 percent from the current fiscal year, they said.

In a bid to give local governments more discretion in spending, the ministry wants to expand local tax-revenue allocation that can freely be used by local governments, unlike subsidies distributed for specific projects.

The ministry’s budget plan is subject to reduction as the government is planning to cut the fiscal 2005 budget by 3 percent from the current fiscal year.

Regarding subsidies, the ministry will ask for 203 billion yen, up 53 percent, for municipal governments to use for such projects as building roads and sewage systems, the sources said.

The ministry will also create new subsidies that it will offer jointly with other ministries. These include a request of 20 billion yen for sewage disposal projects to cover sewerage and drainage systems under the control of the farm ministry.

Half want help for aged

Nearly half of those polled in a recent survey want the government to improve social infrastructure to deal with the aging society and low birthrate, according to the Cabinet Office.

The largest group of respondents to the June survey — at 48.2 percent — said that dealing with the aging society and lower birthrate is the most important issue for the government to address.

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